Getting started with a new hobby is always exciting, and scuba diving is no exception. It’s an incredible way to explore a whole different world, discover new creatures, and experience newfound freedom as you journey underwater.
But with something as complex and safety-sensitive as scuba diving, you must have everything you need before starting. However, it can be easy to go overboard and buy too much – or worse, the wrong type of gear for your needs. As a beginner diver, you don’t need to buy every piece of equipment immediately. But what is the best order to buy scuba gear?
In this article, we’ll look at when you should buy scuba gear and in what order. Before you know it, you’ll know exactly which scuba gear to buy first and how to build up your collection as you progress! Also check out our in-depth guide on all the scuba diving gear essentials you will need.
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With easy access to rental and loaner gear, you may wonder if you even need to own scuba gear right away. While renting can be convenient and has a lower upfront cost, there may come a time when you’ll want to invest in your gear.
If you’re wondering if you should start buying your scuba equipment, ask yourself the following questions:
Is it worth buying scuba gear if you only intend to dive once or twice a year? Diving with rented equipment is the more cost-effective option for infrequent divers.
However, purchasing your own gear will be a sound investment if you see yourself as a frequent recreational diver. Rental costs will soon mount up if you dive regularly. This means buying your own scuba gear can quickly pay for itself.
Look, we aren’t going to pretend rental gear is the most comfortable or best-fitting option out there. Rental equipment will never fit you perfectly, which may impact your safety and enjoyment while diving.
Experienced divers always know what fits them best. Investing in your own gear is the obvious choice. However, as a beginner, it may be worth trying rental equipment to decide what type of fit you prefer.
That said, buying scuba gear is the way to go if you’re committed to diving and want the most secure and comfortable fit.
You can only progress so far in rental gear. If you want to take your diving skills to the next level, then investing in your own scuba gear is the next step.
That’s because owning your own gear allows you to become familiar with its every detail – from the buoyancy control device (BCD) to the regulator. With your own equipment, you’ll quickly become accustomed to its feel and weight in the water.
With your own gear, you know that it is well-maintained and won’t be used by others. As a beginner, you can also rest assured that no one else has used the gear, and it’s specifically tailored to fit your needs.
You may not want to invest in top-of-the-line gear right away. But with proper maintenance, you’ll be able to extend the life of your scuba gear and get the most out of your investment.
We know rental gear is cleaned and inspected between dives, but this doesn’t always guarantee that it will be bacteria-free. If you are concerned about the cleanliness of rental gear, then buying your own is a must.
With that in mind, let’s now talk about the ideal order to buy your very own scuba gear.
Whether you’re due to take your open water course or are already qualified, knowing what gear you should buy and in what order is essential.
There’s no need to buy all the gear right away. Instead, take it in stages and build up your collection as you become a more experienced diver. Before we take a deeper look at which scuba gear to buy first, here is a brief overview of what we will cover:
- Exposure Protection
- Dive Computer
- Buoyancy Control Device (BCD)
- Weight System
- Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) or Delayed Surface Marker Buoy (DSMB)
- Dive accessories
The best order to buy scuba gear starts with your very own mask. A mask is the first piece of scuba gear you should buy. That’s because having a well-fitted mask is essential for good visibility and comfort.
You will need a mask when you start your open water course and when you dive. Therefore, buying a suitable mask for your face shape and size is essential – something that fits snugly and securely. Your mask should also be watertight and comfortable to wear.
We always recommend going into your local dive shop to try on masks and seek advice. That way, you can choose the right mask for your face shape and budget. Here are a few tips to tell if you have the right mask:
- There should be no visible gaps between the mask and your face as you look around.
- The mask should not pinch your nose and allow adequate air circulation.
- It should fit snugly with no pressure points on your face.
- The mask should stay in place when you shake your head from side to side.
- If you own a snorkel or regulator, put the mouthpiece in your mouth to see how the mask feels.
A snorkel is a breathing apparatus used for surface swimming. While snorkeling, you can observe fish, reefs, and other underwater features without diving deep. It is unlikely you will have a full scuba setup when you first practice open water skills; this is where a snorkel comes in.
Once you are fully qualified and ready to dive deep, your snorkel is still a valuable piece of kit. Divers use their snorkels while still in shallow waters and on the surface. This allows for breathing without using up valuable air in your diving tank. There is no need to splurge on an expensive snorkel. A basic model should do the job just fine for a beginner diver.
Again, comfort is key. Make sure the snorkel fits your mouth, and you can breathe easily. When buying a snorkel, you should also consider a clip to attach it to your dive mask – if your snorkel doesn’t already come with one.
The next purchase you should consider is fins. Fins help you move through the water quickly with minimal effort and are essential for scuba diving. Fins provide propulsion, helping your body to glide more efficiently. They also help you to maintain control and achieve neutral buoyancy.
You may notice a recurring theme here, but buying fins that fit your feet is important. Fins come in various sizes and materials, so make sure you pick the right ones for you. No one wants to deal with muscle cramps or leg fatigue – and buying the right size fins can help avoid this.
There are two main types of fins: full foot and open heel. The difference is slight, but divers often prefer one type over the other.
- Full foot: Best for warm, tropical waters and can be worn with or without dive booties.
- Open heel: Must be worn with dive booties but are easier to put on.
When trying out your fins, ensure there is a secure fit and that they don’t slip off. If you opt for open-heel fins, check the straps are tight enough to hold your feet firmly in place. At the same time, ensure you can wiggle your toes freely.
4. Exposure Protection
Now, the need for a wetsuit or dry suit entirely depends on the conditions of the water you plan to dive in. Many new divers don’t bother buying exposure protection until they are ready to dive deeper and for longer.
However, exposure protection can also be helpful even if you plan to stay relatively shallow. The water’s temperature directly affects your comfort level, so a wetsuit or dry suit can help keep you warm and comfortable in the water.
Wetsuits are better suited to warmer climates, whereas dry suits are used in cold temperatures. Semi-dry suits are also an option. However, they are not as warm as a dry suit and not as flexible as a wetsuit.
Alongside your scuba suit, you should also consider additional clothing items, such as hoods, boots, and gloves, depending on the water temperature.
Regardless of what type of scuba suit you go for, make sure it fits properly! If your chosen suit is too loose, you may experience heat loss. You should be able to move freely, and it should be snug but not so tight that it restricts your breathing.
A good scuba suit will have seals around the wrists and ankles to prevent water from entering, as well as reinforced zippers to avoid any unwanted water leakage.
5. Dive Computer
A dive computer is one of the most popular items at the top of a beginner diver’s wish list. It is an essential piece of dive gear to help you monitor your progress and safety while diving. Many divers claim their dive computer is one of the more crucial pieces of kit – making it something you should consider buying sooner rather than later.
It’s hard to come by a scuba diver who doesn’t use a dive computer. Not only does it keep track of your no-stop limits and bottom time, but it also allows you to plan out dives more efficiently. Plus, many come with a range of additional features, such as providing you with an easy-to-read real-time display of your dive profile and alerting you if you’re not following safe diving guidelines.
You may wonder how much of an investment a dive computer is. It all depends on the features and functions you are looking for – but don’t worry too much; there are plenty of good quality dive computers on the market that won’t break the bank.
Look for a dive computer with a user-friendly interface and the features you want.
6. Buoyancy Control Device (BCD)
Some divers argue that a Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) is important dive equipment, whereas others call it a glorified vest. Regardless of what others may think, we know that a BCD is an invaluable part of your scuba diving gear as a beginner. Therefore, you could even argue to put it much higher on the list of the best order to buy scuba gear.
You need to keep neutral buoyancy in the water to prevent any damage to coral and marine life and keep yourself safe from any obstacles. Both a BCD and a weight system can help you achieve this. However, a BCD is the much more important piece of equipment and can sometimes double as both – and provide a means to carry your tank and other items.
As well as helping you find neutral buoyancy, integrated weights (which come with many BCDs) will make it easier to control your depth. When looking for a BCD, purchasing one that fits correctly and is comfortable in the water is essential.
You’ll want to try your BCD over the top of your usual wetsuit/dry suit to see how it feels. Inflate the BCD to ensure it fits properly, then see how comfortable you feel moving around with the fully inflated BCD.
If you don’t feel comfortable, then it’s time to try on a new BCD!
7. Regulator with a Submersible Pressure Gauge (SPG)
The regulator is a key piece of kit for a scuba diver. In short, it delivers air from the tank to you – whenever you breathe – and is arguably the most important piece of scuba equipment.
We haven’t included this item until now because, as a beginner, you can make do with a rental dive regulator until you are ready to buy your own.
Regulators are usually made up of three components:
- First stage regulator that is connected to the scuba tank;
- Second stage regulator, which you will breathe from; and
- Octopus, an alternate second stage, which is there to help you or another diver out in an emergency situation.
You will also want your regulator to have an SPG (submersible pressure gauge) that is connected to the first-stage regulator. An SPG is an instrument that shows you the air pressure remaining in your scuba tank, and it’s important to have one when diving. Your regulator should be a quality product that is reliable, comfortable, and, most importantly, fits with your budget.
However, regulators are not the cheapest item in the world, so you may want to wait and see how often you are going diving before you invest. Renting regulators is also a brilliant way to test out different models and see what suits you best.
8. Weight System
If you choose a BCD with no integrated weights, you will need to purchase a separate weight system.
Weights are important when diving as they help you achieve neutral buoyancy, enabling you to quickly move up and down in the water column. The good thing about a weight belt is that you can customize it to suit your needs. You can use pocket weights to easily adjust your weight and add or remove weights as needed.
Always remember to buy the right weights for your size, as carrying too much weight can cause physical fatigue while diving and make ascending difficult! Your weight belt should also be comfortable and made of durable material.
However, when shopping around for a weight belt or a weight-integrated BCD, it’s important to note you don’t typically buy the weights – just the weight system itself. If diving at a dive center or on a liveaboard, you can use the weights they offer. But you will need to buy some weights separately if organizing your own dive trip, of course!
9. Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) or Delayed Surface Marker Buoy (DSMB)
Finally, you will want to pick up a surface marker buoy (SMB) or delayed surface marker buoy (DSMB). These items help you communicate with the surface and mark your diving location.
Sometimes known as a ‘safety sausage,’ an SMB or DSMB is a brightly colored tube that can be filled with air and released when the diver needs to show their location. A DSMB can also be deployed while underwater, allowing you to ascend at your own pace while signaling your location from below the surface.
Dive operators often require these items, which are a great addition to any new diver’s kit. Look for one that is clearly visible, in a bright color, and made of durable materials.
10. Dive Accessories
Going through the order to buy scuba gear, we get to the last point on our list: accessories. From dive hooks to slates and compasses, countless dive accessories are available for divers of all levels. As a beginner, you don’t need to worry too much about these initiatives. The more you dive, the more you will understand what other accessories you may need.
Dive torches or lights are usually the first non-essential item a diver purchases, as they come in handy during night dives or when exploring underwater caves. You can buy torches for different prices, so it pays to research before purchasing.
As you progress in diving, many items come in handy for certain specialties. These include underwater cameras and housing, a dive knife, and additional safety items like dive reels.
You have a few options when it comes to buying scuba gear. Some are more cost-effective than others, but it pays to shop around and compare prices.
Here are the most popular places to buy scuba gear:
- Local Dive Shop: This is always your best bet, as you can get up close and personal with the gear before you buy. Most dive shops also offer advice on what items will best suit your needs.
- Online Dive Stores: Online stores offer great deals on scuba gear and are often cheaper than buying from a dive shop. Just be sure to read the reviews and check they are a reputable retailer before purchasing. We recommend Scuba.com, the leading online dive shop with great service and amazing prices.
- Auction Websites: You can often find good deals on second-hand scuba gear on sites such as eBay. Just be sure to check the condition of the item before you buy.
- Exhibitions: Diving expos and exhibitions often offer great deals on scuba gear. This is a good way to find out about new products too.
Hopefully, you are no longer wondering which scuba gear to buy first. By understanding the basics of dive equipment, you can ensure you purchase the right items in the right order – without breaking the bank.
Admittedly, opinions on the best order to buy scuba gear vary a bit. However, you can’t really go wrong with the order described above! And remember that you don’t need to buy every single piece of gear at once! Take your time, shop around, and compare prices. This way, you can get the best gear for your budget and start diving with confidence. There is a whole new world to explore underwater, and with the right scuba gear, you can make sure it’s a safe and enjoyable experience.